Kurt was checking his hair for the fifth time in the green room mirror, a nervous habit that at this point was almost a ritual at competitions. He looked behind himself at his excitedly chattering fellow glee clubbers when he noticed that Blaine was no longer on the couch where he'd been sitting next to Tina. Turning around, he saw that his boyfriend actually didn't seem to be in the room at all. He walked briskly over to Tina. "Where's Blaine?" he asked.
"I think he went to the bathroom," she said, frowning. "But that was a while ago. I mean, it's right around the corner."
Kurt looked at the clock on the wall. They had plenty of time before the performances began, but not having everyone present and accounted for made his nerves even shakier. It also wasn't like Blaine at all to flake off like that before a performance, and Kurt began to worry. "I'm going to see if I can find him," he said. Tina looked at him, concerned, and Kurt forced a smile. "I could use the chance to walk off the nervous energy anyway," he said. "I'll be right back, promise."
Kurt checked the bathroom out, but there was no sign of Blaine there. He went down the hallway, passing people from other groups in their various costumes. Seeing the door to the backstage area, he decided to peek in there. It was dark, but he thought he could hear voices. He stepped through the doorway, and as his eyes adjusted, caught sight of two figures in the corner. He recognized them immediately, because there was no way he could miss the shorter boy in the same sapphire blue button down shirt and silver tie that he was wearing, and the much taller boy in a Dalton blazer. He felt the blood drain from his face, and his heart drop into his stomach. What was Blaine doing back here with Sebastian?
"I told you before, the blushing schoolboy thing is really hot," he heard Sebastian say. Kurt gasped quietly; Blaine had said that Sebastian had flirted a little with him, but never mentioned that things had gotten that graphic. "But this? Your hard to get act? It's even more fucking sexy."
Blaine laughed nervously. "Come on, Sebastian, knock it off," he said. "I told you, I'm in a relationship with Kurt. I love Kurt."
"I'm not suggesting you don't," said Sebastian, his voice pitched low and seductive. "It's sweet, really. But would you have even come back here, if you weren't the tiniest bit curious about what things would be like when they're a little less sweet?" Kurt stared, horrified, as Sebastian brought his fingers to the side of Blaine's face and stroked. Blaine's eyes closed, and Kurt saw his color rise and breathing speed up.
"Stop," said Blaine, but it was soft and breathless.
"No," said Sebastian. "I'm not sweet. I'm not tame, like you and your boyfriend. I'm a bad, wicked boy, and I never stop until I get exactly what I want." He moved his thumb to Blaine's bottom lip and dragged it across. "And what I want, Blaine, is you." With that, Sebastian took his thumb away and replaced it with his lips. Kurt watched numbly, tears rising to his eyes as they kissed, Blaine's hands coming up and fisting themselves in Sebastian's blazer. Kurt brought his hands to his mouth, so he wouldn't cry out the anguish that was crushing his heart.
After a few moments, Blaine seemed to come back to himself. His fingers unclenched, and his palms went flat against Sebastian's chest. With a grunt of effort, he pushed Sebastian away from him. "Why did you do that?" he said, looking like he was about to cry. "I said I didn't want you to."
Sebastian laughed softly. "And I think I told you that I didn't care," he said dismissively. "Besides, you weren't exactly fighting me off there at first." His lips curled up in a smirk. "Maybe you should think about how much you really didn't want it."
Blaine, Kurt was slightly relived to see, looked appalled. "Stay away from me," Blaine said, turning around to leave.
"Not a chance," replied Sebastian. "Especially now that I know how good you taste." He licked his lips lasciviously. "Until we meet again, Blaine." He laughed, low and mocking, when Blaine ran from the room quickly. Kurt had pressed himself up against the wall in the darkness, and Blaine never even saw him as he ran past him.
Enraged, Kurt marched up to Sebastian, who was smoothing out his blazer. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" he said, narrowing his eyes.
"Well, hello there, Kurt," said Sebastian, smiling. "Fancy meeting you here. Just missed your boyfriend, you know."
"I didn't miss anything, you jerk," said Kurt, an unwanted tremble sneaking into his voice. "Stay away from Blaine." His voice rose. "Don't you ever talk to him, ever touch him again."
Sebastian's smile faded. "As if I'd let you tell me what to do," he said, staring Kurt down. "I'll talk to him all I want. I'll touch him as much and as often as I can. And in the end, I'll take him from you. It'll be embarrassingly easy."
Kurt felt a stab of fear pierce his heart. It's not true, Blaine loves you, he'll always love you, his mind gibbered. Kurt rarely swore, but only one word came to his lips. "Bullshit," he said.
Infuriatingly, Sebastian laughed. "If you say so," he said.
"Blaine and I are in love," Kurt said, lifting his chin. "You can't compete with that."
"Oh, I'm fairly confident I can compete with a relationship that consists of watching musicals and sharing skin care regimens over the phone."
Kurt felt his confidence leap. "We do a lot more than that now," he said in a rush. "We're lovers. We have been for weeks."
"Wow," said Sebastian mockingly. "I'm almost impressed. You gave it up for him, huh? I must have really put the fear of God into you."
"It had nothing to do with you!" Kurt shouted.
"Of course not," said Sebastian. "So…how long after Blaine and I met, did this momentous virginity loss happen?"
Kurt's face burned. "That's none of your business," he spat.
"Soon after, I would guess," mused Sebastian. "I'm sure it was very romantic. So sweet and tender."
"I'm not talking about the details with you," said Kurt, smiling tightly. "Just know that it was wonderful. The most amazing thing that's ever happened to either of us, and you'll never compete with that."
"Oh Kurt," said Sebastian. "Poor, sheltered Kurt. You know, I don't think you're entirely pathetic. There's something about how your eyes get all big and round that's very appealing. And your mouth really does look like it was specifically created for sucking cock." Kurt gasped, shocked. Sebastian continued. "But taking a guy away from his boyfriend? It's not about looks, or love. It's about skill. I know how tempt the most loving of boyfriends into cheating. I've done it dozens of times. And when it comes to sex, I'll bet I can do things you've never even heard of. My tongue can do things that have made straight boys question how straight they really are." He took in Kurt's wide, shiny eyes, and his lower lip that had begun to tremble. "Still feeling confident?" he said smugly.
Unbeknownst to Kurt and Sebastian, someone they both knew was listening, his anger growing with each passing word.
Dave was really freaking out, now that Sectionals was actually here. He'd transferred to Carmel High with no intention of joining their glee club. Football was his main interest, with schoolwork a close second. He had one last year to turn everything around, to be as attractive as possible to as many colleges as he could, so he could finally, finally get out of Lima. He'd met with the guidance counselor, who suggested that in order to appear extremely well rounded, his transcript could use some arts credits. Around the same time, Dave had heard that Vocal Adrenaline was looking for new members. Unlike at McKinley, Carmel's show choir was actually considered cool to be part of. They'd won Nationals scores of times over the years, and had more boosters than any of the athletic teams. They had a new director this year, Dave had heard, an alumni named Jesse St. James. So, gathering his courage, Dave had tried out. He sang a song that was one of his favorites since transferring, one that didn't really capture quite where he was now, but where he so badly wanted to be someday.
This is my life, it's not what it was before
All these feelings I've shared
And these are my dreams
That I'd never lived before
Somebody shake me
'Cause I, I must be sleeping
Now that we're here, it's so far away
All the struggle we thought was in vain
And all the mistakes one life contained
They all finally start to go away
Dave had let every hope for his future, his hope to be a better person, to be redeemed completely from the bully he'd once been, pour into his song. When he was done, Jesse just sat there staring, and Dave figured he must have bombed completely. But instead, he was amazed to see the only slightly older guy swallow a couple of times before speaking. "You're in," he said simply, and from that point on Dave had rehearsals for show choir to balance with football and schoolwork. It was okay, though, because keeping busy and focused on positive things was helping him to be happier than he'd been since he could remember. Combined with his secret but also extremely helpful trips to the one and only gay bar in Lima, Dave was starting to feel like he was well on his way to being the man he hoped to be one day; completely confident and comfortable in his own skin.
But since he wasn't quite there yet, the idea of performing at Sectionals had made him nervous enough that he couldn't sit still. He told Jesse that he needed to take a walk, and took off, pacing through the halls until he saw a sign indicating the backstage area. Maybe if he just snuck in for a moment, and stood on the stage behind the curtain, he could center himself somehow. But as he approached the door, he heard voices, one of which sounded very familiar to him.
"Just know that it was wonderful. The most amazing thing that's ever happened to either of us, and you'll never compete with that," he heard Kurt's high, unmistakable voice say.
Another voice responded, one that he didn't recognize. "Oh Kurt. Poor, sheltered Kurt. You know, I don't think you're entirely pathetic. There's something about how your eyes get all big and round that's very appealing. And your mouth really does look like it was specifically created for sucking cock."
Dave's hackles went up immediately. He moved into the room, not liking the sound of what he was hearing at all. He got closer, and saw Kurt standing next to a tall guy in a blue and red blazer. Dave recognized it from when Blaine had approached him on the stairwell last year, and also when all those guys had shown up on the quad and serenaded Kurt the day he came back to McKinley. He goes to Dalton, where Kurt used to go. Does he know him from there? wondered Dave. Dave squinted, then his jaw dropped. What the fuck? It's that pushy dude from Scandals, the one that doesn't like to take no for an answer. The same one that was dancing with Blaine last month, while Kurt sat at the bar like a freaking wall flower.
"But taking a guy away from his boyfriend? It's not about looks, or love. It's about skill. I know how tempt the most loving of boyfriends into cheating. I've done it dozens of times. And when it comes to sex, I'll bet I can do things you've never even heard of. My tongue can do things that have made straight boys question how straight they really are. Still feeling confident?"
Dave saw red. That prick, that fucking cock-slut prick. He walked up to the two boys, not even caring that he was totally butting into something that really wasn't his business. "Hey," he said loudly, looking at Sebastian. "Don't talk to him like that."
Kurt and Sebastian turned to face Dave, identical looks of surprise on their faces. Sebastian recovered first. "Excuse me?" he said in a haughty tone, one that increased Dave's irritation even more.
"Did I stutter?" Dave asked, rudely. He shot Kurt a quick look, taking in his wide eyes and open mouth. Dave looked back at Sebastian, and drew up close. They were about the same height, so it was easy for Dave to look him straight in the eye. "I said, don't talk to Kurt like that."
Sebastian stepped back a bit, sizing Dave up, when suddenly, recognition washed over his features. "You've got to be fucking kidding me," Sebastian said. "Shy little cubbie from Scandals. My, my." He paused, raking his gaze over Dave. It grew appreciative, as he took in Dave's body in his fuchsia dress shirt, along with his form-fitting dark grey pants and matching tie. His eyes lingered insolently on the breadth of Dave's chest and shoulders beneath the crisp cotton. "I must say, you clean up remarkably well," Sebastian said with a leer. "I had no idea."
Kurt looked between Dave and Sebastian. It had never occurred to him before that they might have known each other. But Dave obviously was some kind of regular at the gay bar, and it sure hadn't seemed like Sebastian's first time there. It was like all of Kurt's worlds were colliding, and so he just stood there gaping, as the two boys faced off.
Dave smiled, a chillingly pleasant one that managed not to come anywhere even close to his eyes. "I kind of have a policy of non-violence these days," said Dave, staring at Sebastian. "But you know what? If you ever look at me like that again, I'm going to have to make an exception. Now fuck off, asshole."
Sebastian's lips became pinched, and he frowned. He looked at Kurt, who was still goggling, and shook his head. "Fine," he sniffed, stepping past Dave. "Have it your way."
"Oh, I will," Dave assured him, and kept his eye on Sebastian until he was sure he'd left the backstage area completely. Satisfied, he turned to Kurt. "You okay?" he asked.
Kurt blinked, trying to take in everything that had happened in the last fifteen minutes. He'd caught Blaine kissing Sebastian. Then he'd confronted Sebastian, and had his relative inexperience tossed in his face. Then his former bully, who he'd run into at a gay bar the previous month, showed up and told Sebastian to fuck off after being thoroughly checked out by him. It was a lot to ingest. But when he looked into Dave's concerned eyes, he was able to focus. "Yes," he said. "I'm okay. Thanks. Thank you, Dave, for sticking up for me like that." He felt tears sting his eyes, the stress finally hitting him.
"No problem," said Dave. "That guy…he's a total douchebag, Kurt. Don't let him get to you. It's what he lives for."
Kurt choked out a laugh. "You're right," he said, wiping at the corners of his eyes with his hands. He looked at Dave, really looked at him for the first time. "What are you doing here, anyway?"
Dave flushed, his cheeks reddening. "I'm, uh…." he started, trying to find the words. "I'm competing, with my glee club. Not much on pink shirts with a tie otherwise." He smiled weakly at Kurt.
Kurt squinted, putting the pieces together in his brain. Dave had transferred to Carmel. He knew this because he'd asked around after not seeing Dave at all in the halls after the new school year started. No one seemed to really know why, or had been in touch with him at all after that last day of junior year. Finn had mourned the loss of their best right guard, but other than that, it was almost as if Dave was forgotten the moment he was no longer walking the halls of McKinley. But sometimes when he saw a letterman jacket, or heard the bang of a locker after gym class, he thought of Dave, and hoped he was doing well at his new school. He'd run into Dave at Scandals, and although it appeared that he was still in the closet, it was obvious he'd made some strides in accepting his sexuality. And now Dave was standing in front of him, dressed very similarly to himself outside of the color scheme, saying that he was there to compete. With his glee club. "Oh my God," said Kurt, bringing his fingers to his lips. "You're…you're in Vocal Adrenaline?"
Dave turned even pinker, his freshly-shaven cheeks shining. "Yeah," he mumbled, meeting Kurt's eyes for a moment and then looking down. "Kind of have a solo and everything. I'm a little nervous."
Kurt stared at him. "You're soloing tonight?" he said. "At Sectionals?"
"Crazy, huh?" replied Dave, running his hand through his hair. "Jesse, he thinks I've got something special going on. I think he might be nuts, but everyone else seems to think he knows what he's talking about. So I just decided to go along with it. Hopefully I won't suck too badly."
Kurt thought about how harshly Jesse had torn him down when he'd been working with New Directions. How he'd torn everyone down, except for Rachel, and Kurt didn't know how much of that was genuine and how much was an attempt to get into her pants. That same picky bastard thought that Dave was worthy of a competition solo? "If Jesse picked you to solo, I'm pretty sure you don't suck," said Kurt, a little numbly.
Dave ducked his head, and Kurt felt his breath catch at how utterly adorable and vulnerable his smile was. "Well, we can hope, right?"
Kurt felt the same unexpected rush of warmth that he'd experienced sitting next to Dave at the bar. It was simply amazing how that shy smile transformed Dave's entire face. He'd always thought Dave's eyes were a dark hazel color, but even in the dim light of the backstage area he could see that they were more of a green-tinged gold. Like there was a light behind them now that hadn't been there before. At least, not that Kurt had ever noticed.
Dave looked up, wondering why Kurt was so quiet, only to see that Kurt had that look on his face again. The one just like at the end of their conversation at the bar. Like Kurt had realized something, something he was both happy and sad about at the same time. Dave felt like he could just fall into those beautifully lashed eyes and get lost forever. He knew he was staring but he couldn't seem to stop; but the weird thing was that Kurt was staring right back at him.
"Dave!" came an irritated shout from the doorway. "I've been looking everywhere for you!" A obviously miffed Jesse St. James marched up to Kurt and Dave stiffly. "We go on in twenty minutes. Everyone's warming up. Now move it." He looked over, noticing Kurt for the first time. "Fraternizing with the enemy," he said, frowning. "Wonderful. It's a good thing you've got an incredible voice, Dave. I've tossed people on competition day for a lot less."
Far from intimidated, Dave rolled his eyes at Jesse's folded arms and tapping foot. He shot Kurt a rueful grin. "I guess that's my cue," he said. "You sure you're okay? I can walk you back to your green room if you want." He ignored Jesse's indignant sputters behind him.
Kurt felt something in his chest twinge. The offer of an escort brought back memories of when Dave had accompanied him from class to class while in the Bullywhips. For the most part, Kurt had been uncomfortable with all the fuss Santana had made. He had managed to convince himself at that time that his schoolmates had become somewhat sanguine about the out gay kid, and he didn't really appreciate her pretentious grandstanding. But Dave never made a big show about his protection duties. Kurt remembered how earnest and proud Dave had sounded, when he quietly insisted that Kurt was no longer being tormented because the Bullywhips were protecting him. And though he hadn't believed it at the time, Dave had turned out to be most likely right about that.
Not for the first time since running into Dave at Scandals, he wished he was able to see Dave's progress firsthand. Even though he was still in the closet, he seemed so much happier and comfortable. Soloing at a show choir sectionals competition while wearing a pink shirt certainly seemed to indicate more than a few tiny baby steps on his former bully's part. Kurt smiled fondly. "No, I'm fine," he said. "You guys are on well before us. I'm just going to take a few minutes to myself, then head back." He paused, tilting his head slightly. "But thank you for offering."
Dave shrugged. "You're welcome," he said easily, and turned to Jesse. "Okay, let's do this." They started walking away, when Dave stopped. He knew his words would piss Jesse off, but he really couldn't find it in him to care. He turned back to Kurt with a bashful smile. "Good luck, Kurt," he said.
Kurt felt the twinge again. What was that, anyway? "Thanks," he said in return. He took a deep breath and blinked a few times. "Good luck to you, too. I really can't wait to hear you sing." He hadn't known the words were even in his head, but as they left his lips he knew they were nothing but the absolute truth.
Dave's mouth dropped open. Kurt wanted to hear him sing? He was looking forward to it? Dave wasn't quite sure what to do with that piece of information. "Uh, thanks," he said quickly, then walked over to where Jesse was waiting for him peevishly. They left immediately.
Kurt waited a few moments, then returned to the green room. Blaine was sitting on a stool in front of the lighted mirror, staring at his reflection with a rather blank look on his face. Sighing, Kurt went up to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. Blaine started and turned to face Kurt.
"Where have you been?" asked Blaine, sounding anxious.
"I went looking for you," said Kurt. He didn't want to say anything else, just wanted to see how Blaine would respond.
"Oh," said Blaine, suddenly not meeting his eyes. "I had to go to the bathroom, and then I ran into some of the Warblers. I guess I lost track of time a little, catching up with them." He smiled weakly.
Kurt's heart sank. He's lying to me, he thought. And it's the worst kind of lie, the kind that's convincing because there's actually some truth to it. "I see," Kurt said. They stood there awkwardly, when Mr. Schuester announced that if they wanted to check out the competition, they had better get out there.
Kurt sat between Finn and Blaine, feeling somewhat detached. He missed Rachel's presence; if there was anyone he could talk to about what was happening, it would be her. In an act that made Kurt want to hug and slap her at the same time, Rachel had been suspended for stuffing the ballot box with votes for him. He knew her heart was in the right place; she'd been so upset when Jacob Ben Israel's polls consistently showed that Kurt had no chance of winning Class President. He knew she did it because she loved him, and because she really did think he was the best candidate. But he was appalled that his friend would do something so potentially damaging to herself. In the short term, being suspended meant that she couldn't perform at sectionals. In the long term, NYADA was not going to look well upon Rachel with a suspension on her record. He tried to think of what she would say to him if she'd been there. Probably that he just didn't want me to be upset before we went on, he thought. Maybe he's just waiting until we get home, and then he'll come clean.
The voice in his head sounded familiar, but not because it was Rachel's. It sound like a voice he'd been hearing a lot of lately. It was high and shrill, and seemed to exist purely to provide excuses for his boyfriend's behavior whenever Kurt was on the verge of thinking there might be some real problems with their relationship. It had nagged him on the way home from Scandals, after Blaine had decided to walk home. Kurt had been fuming over Blaine's behavior. His inability to call Sebastian out on his rudeness to Kurt, his clueless drunken dancing with a guy who was obviously interested in him. But most of all, how Blaine kept trying to kiss and feel him up, when Kurt was pretty sure he'd communicated quite clearly that he didn't want that. He didn't know how many times he'd said "stop" or "no"; Five or six times, at least. Maybe even ten, or more? Whatever the number, it had felt like a lot. Kurt had been thinking about how furious his dad would have been if he'd known Kurt was treated that way, or how upset he'd be if Rachel had told him Finn had done something like that to her. And then the shrill voice spoke up loudly.
You were the one who brought up taking things further in the first place, it said. You were the one who agreed to go to the bar first, too. Blaine was drunk, he wasn't paying attention like he usually does. It's not his fault. No wonder he wanted to dance with Sebastian, when you just stood there for the first ten minutes like you had a stick up your butt. You need to loosen up, and realize how lucky you are to have him. Apologize, Kurt. Stop being such a tease one minute, and a prude the next. Follow through for once, and give Blaine what he deserves. Because if you don't make this right, you're going to lose him. You know it.
Kurt was shaken from his thoughts by the announcement that the performances were about to begin. The lights dimmed. Kurt watched the first three acts distractedly; they were competent, but nothing special. The fourth act, however, had him sitting up. "Please welcome our next group, the Dalton Academy Warblers!"
The Warblers stood in a tight formation, arms down at their sides. The polyphonic tones of their voices started, when Nick came to the front and began to sing lead.
Everybody's looking for love
Isn't that the reason you're at this club
You're not going to find it dancing with him, no
I got a better solution for you, girl, oh oh
For Kurt, it was really strange to see the Warblers without Blaine. But Nick was really holding his own, and doing a great job. Maybe Blaine transferring had been a good thing for the group, giving some of the other guys a chance to have the spotlight for a change. He looked over at Blaine to see if he was jealous, but he had a big smile on his face, obviously happy for his old show choir. Then the music changed slightly, and Nick danced off to the side. Thad began to whistle a loud and familiar sounding riff, when suddenly the boys parted and Sebastian's tall frame burst through.
Just shoot for the stars, if it feels right
Then aim for my heart, if you feel like
And take me away, and make it okay
Kurt immediately lost his smile. He checked out Blaine's reaction out of the corner of his eye, not wanting him to know he was being watched. Blaine's cheeks flushed, and he looked down for a moment. But when he started watching again, Kurt could see how his eyes heated up, how he drew his lower lip into his mouth and chewed it slightly. This is not good, thought Kurt. Not good at all. Onstage, Sebastian hit the chorus, dancing gracefully and staring out into the audience intently, like he was seeking out someone specifically.
Take me by the tongue and I'll know you
Kiss me 'til you're drunk and I'll show you
All the moves like Jagger
I got the moves like Jagger
I got the mooooooves...like Jagger
I don't even try to control you
Look into my eyes and I'll own you
With them moves like Jagger
Kurt's stomach felt like there was a rock in it. That's your competition, Kurt, the shrill voice said again. Good thing you and Blaine are intimate now. You better keep it up. Maybe even go online and watch some of those movies to get ideas, even though they make you uncomfortable. You don't want Blaine to get bored with you. If he gets bored, he'll leave you. God, how he hated that voice.
The Warblers finished to tremendous applause. Kurt had never been so happy to see a performance end, which made him sad. Most of those boys up there had been his friends, but with Sebastian strutting about, he felt nothing but sick watching them. He slouched back in his chair, and felt Blaine take his hand and squeeze it. He leaned over and whispered in Kurt's ear. "Don't worry," he said. "They were good, but we're better. We'll totally kick their butts."
So good at picking up on what I'm feeling, thought Kurt sarcastically. He stopped, though, because he didn't want that annoying voice to come back. His attention was drawn once again to the announcer.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the reigning National Show Choir champions, Vocal Adrenaline!"
In seconds, Kurt felt his bad mood evaporate. Of course the rest of New Directions went instantly on the alert, but Kurt was the only one with a smile on his face as he turned eagerly back to the stage. He felt a buzz of excitement, like when he was about to see a movie or hear a song that he'd looked forward to for the first time. A spotlight hit the center of the stage, and he saw Sunshine Corazon walk into it. She began to sing in her beautiful, clear voice.
There's a hero
If you look inside your heart
You don't have to be afraid
Of what you are
There's an answer
If you reach into your soul
And the sorrow that you know
Will melt away
Kurt began to feel some worry slip in. Without Rachel, Mercedes or Santana, they might be at a disadvantage when it came to diva ballads. But he shook it off. Tina's an amazing singer, he told himself. Just because she hasn't been given the chance before to really take center stage, doesn't mean she's not going to kill it up there. We're not out of the game yet, not by a long shot. The rest of the stage lights came up as the chorus approached, and the other members of Vocal Adrenaline entered the stage, beginning to harmonize behind Sunshine.
And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you
It wasn't hard for Kurt to pick out Dave on stage. He was much broader-shouldered than any of the other boys up there, and Kurt would have known him anywhere. Dave stood in the back, towards the center, his sways and arm movements synchronized perfectly with the other members of his glee club. But while many of his fellow singers had toothy, fake looking smiles on their faces, Dave's face shone with a hope and joy that caused Kurt's heart to thud in his chest. Dave loved performing, Kurt realized. You could see it so plainly. I'm so glad he's somewhere where he can have this, thought Kurt. Where it can be part of his life, and he doesn't have to be ashamed or embarrassed about it.
Hero drew to a close, and a steady pulsing dance beat began to play. Sunshine moved into the background formation, and with a slight shifting, Dave was dead center. He began to move forward, and Kurt felt his pulse race in anticipation as Dave's lips parted and he started to sing.
I can't win, I can't reign
I will never win this game
Without you, without you
I am lost, I am vain,
I will never be the same
Without you, without you
Kurt was in awe. Dave's voice was sublime; deep and rich and smooth in a way that moved through Kurt's entire body. Jesse had changed the key of the song and the arrangement slightly, so that it matched up with Dave's perfect baritone beautifully. Dave didn't go up into a falsetto like Usher did in the original version; the strength and power of his voice turned the simple pop number into something much more profound.
I won't run, I won't fly
I will never make it by
Without you, without you
I can't rest, I can't fight
All I need is you and I,
Without you, without you
"Holy shit," Kurt heard Finn murmur, and he turned to see his brother's stunned face. "Am I seeing things, or is that Dave Karofsky?" Looking down the row, he saw identical shocked expressions, and realized that no one else had recognized Dave from his position in the back row. There was a lot of gasping and pointing, and Kurt felt his lips curl up in a silly grin at their surprise. He turned in the other direction to look at Blaine, who was staring at Dave's performance open-mouthed.
The tempo of the song picked up, and Vocal Adrenaline moved around the stage in one of their usual complex and over-the-top choreographies. Dave could apparently dance as well as he could sing, and his muscular build obviously came in handy when it came to the difficult lifts and assists. He boosted his partner up as if she weighed less than air, turning in a flowing circle with her held easily in his strong arms. The entire time, he never lost his breath, or even seemed to break a sweat. It was something else, to say the least, and Kurt realized that he was feeling a faint hum of…something, watching Dave. Kurt had always had a strong emotional response to excellent performers. He'd crushed immediately on Finn, and then Sam, after hearing them sing. And of course, there was Blaine; watching him sing Teenage Dream with the Warblers was one of the most unforgettable moments in Kurt's life.
He remembered Blaine telling him that watching him sing Blackbird was a moment for him. A moment about Kurt. Right now, Kurt was having a moment of his own. A moment about Dave Karofsky. Dave was talented. He could also be funny, and kind, apparently. And not that Kurt had ever thought it before, but he couldn't deny the tingle going though him. Dave was attractive; hell, Dave was hot. Well, this is an interesting development, Kurt thought, his eyes riveted on the performance unfolding in front of him. The song slowed back down, and the music faded away. Dave delivered the last set of lyrics a cappella, his voice projecting perfectly to the back of the auditorium.
I am lost, I am vain,
I will never be the same
Without you, without you
Vocal Adrenaline took their bows to thunderous applause. Unable to contain himself, Kurt leaped out of his chair to join what quickly became a standing ovation. "All right Dave! Yeah!" Kurt shouted, cupping his hands so his voice would carry. He sat back down as the singers exited the stage, grinning from ear to ear. He looked down the row again to see that everyone was still gaping, but this time at him. "What?" he said, shrugging. "He did a great job. I cheered for you guys when I was in the Warblers, you know."
"You don't seem very surprised, Kurt," he heard Blaine say. He turned and met his boyfriend's suspicious eyes. "Did you know Dave was in Vocal Adrenaline before just now?"
Kurt thought about not answering, and letting Blaine worry a little. It wasn't very nice, and it would probably get that stupid voice chattering again, but the temptation was there. Kurt sighed. "I ran into him when I was looking for you," he said, rather truthfully. "We talked a little." He could tell that Blaine wanted to question him further, but apparently Vocal Adrenaline had closed the first half of the show. They were announcing the intermission, so Mr. Schue stood up to urge everyone backstage. You had to be back there for the entire half of the show that you performed in, which meant that they were going to miss the Troubletones' performance. Kurt wondered if Vocal Adrenaline would go sit in the audience for the second half. For some reason, he found himself hoping so, hoping Dave would be out there watching him sing.
Thirty minutes later, Kurt was standing in the wings, palms sweating as he watched Tina walk onto the stage, singing.
I never meant to be the one to let you down
If anything, I thought I saw myself going first
I didn't know how to stick around
How to see anybody but me be getting hurt
I keep remembering the summer night
And the conversation breaking up the mood
I didn't want to tell you you were right
Like the season changing, oh, I felt it too
Does anybody know how to hold my heart
How to hold my heart?
'Cause I don't want to let go, let go, let go too soon
Tina's gorgeous alto was perfectly pitched, and she was nailing the song even better than in rehearsals. She looked stunning in her sapphire dress with the silver sash, and she owned that stage as masterfully as Rachel ever had. Why doesn't Mr. Schue let her solo more often? he thought. She's so good. They were totally still in the game, absolutely. They just had to pull off the next song, which was one of the most difficult ones New Directions had ever attempted. If they could perform it perfectly, though, there was no way they wouldn't win.
Tina's song was winding down, and Kurt saw Finn appear in the wings across the stage. He gave his stepbrother a thumbs up, and Finn returned it somewhat weakly. He was used to having Rachel singing with him at competitions, and having to duet with another person had his confidence a little shaky. Kurt heard footsteps behind him, and knew it was Blaine moving into place. He too looked extremely nervous, and despite his earlier anger, he couldn't help but find it kind of sweet. If there was ever a time to be a supportive boyfriend, it was then. "You're going to be fantastic," he told Blaine.
"Thanks," said Blaine, a little breathlessly. "It's just really important. I don't want to mess it up. Finn will hate me even more then."
"Hey," said Kurt, taking Blaine's hands. "Everything's going to be fine. Kiss for good luck?" He gave Blaine his most appealing doe eyes, and Blaine laughed quietly.
"Kiss for good luck," he agreed, pressing his mouth to Kurt's.
Kurt tried not to think about where Blaine's lips had been earlier that evening. He pulled back after a moment. "Better?" he asked.
"Much," replied Blaine. "I love you, Kurt. I really do love you."
I wish it didn't sound like you were trying to convince yourself, thought Kurt. But then he heard the music change, and patted Blaine on the shoulder. "Love you too," he said. "Now go on out there and make us win sectionals. I'll be there with you, doing my part."
Kurt, along with all of the New Directions except for Blaine, Finn and Tina, took to the stage under discrete stage lighting. They took their places, and Finn entered from stage right.
Tonight I'm gonna have myself a real good time
I feel alive…
Blaine entered from stage left.
And the world I'm turning inside out, yeah
I'm floating around in ecstasy, so
The other members of New Directions chimed in.
So don't stop me now
Don't stop me
'Cause I'm having a good time
Having a good time
Blaine and Finn belted out the verse, managing for once to look like they could actually stand each other. The show must go on, after all, thought Kurt. His favorite part of the song came, and all of the New Directions came together in the center of the stage.
Don't stop me don't stop me don't stop me
Don't stop me don't stop me
Ooh ooh ooh
Don't stop me have a good time good time
Don't stop me don't stop me
They all started dancing joyfully around the stage. Kurt grabbed Quinn's hands, spun her in a circle, then dipped her. She smiled brilliantly, the kind of smile Kurt hadn't seen on her face since forever. God, they were all so messed up, but when they came together to perform, they were magic. He just wished they all could be there; not only Rachel, but Santana, Brittany and Mercedes too.
Don't stop me now I'm having such a good time
I'm having a ball don't stop me now
If you wanna have a good time
Just give me a call
Don't stop me now
Don't stop me now
I don't wanna stop at all
The number ended to incredibly loud applause, louder than any they'd ever gotten at a competition before for sure. Kurt took a moment to savor his first ever standing ovation, looking over the crowd and basking in their admiration. And that's when he saw him. Dave was standing up, clapping enthusiastically and whoo-hooing like he was at an NFL game. The rest of his glee club, including Jesse, were looking at him like he had a hand growing out of his head. Kurt laughed delightedly, and threw Dave a small wave. Dave started a little, his clap dying off. But as Kurt kept eye contact with him, he ducked his head and gave that same cute little smile as before. And suddenly, there it was again. The twinge. Like a little tug on his heart. It wasn't a bad feeling at all; on the contrary, it felt quite lovely. He felt a yanking at his hand, and realized Mike was starting to pull him offstage. He'd gotten a little distracted. With one last quick wave, Kurt jogged off the stage.
After a nail biting forty minutes while the judges deliberated, they found themselves back on stage, waiting for the results. Kurt held Blaine's hand tightly on one side, and Finn's on the other. He breathed deeply, trying not to freak out completely. He wanted this so bad; it was his senior year, his last chance. They had to make it to Nationals for one last try. They just had to.
"I would like to ask our finalists to come to the stage," said the announcer. "Our first finalists are the Dalton Academy Warblers!" The boys took the stage, cheering. "Our next finalists…Vocal Adrenaline!" Carmel's show choir took the stage with an air of entitlement, except for Dave, who honestly looked like he was about to pee himself with excitement. "And our last finalists are the New Directions of McKinley High School!" Kurt wasn't sure the sound he made was human. At the very least, it was in a pitch that possibly only dogs could hear. He ran to the stage, letting go of Blaine and Finn's hands in his rush to get there as fast as possible.
The three groups stood there while the trophies were brought out and set in front, and a notecard given to the announcer. He began to read from the card. "In third place…the Dalton Academy Warblers!" There was polite applause as Nick took the small trophy, smiling brightly. Kurt was quite happy to see that Sebastian seemed completely miffed.
"And in second place…ladies and gentlemen, for the second year in a row, we have a tie! Vocal Adrenaline and the New Directions are both heading to the regionals round of the competition!" Gasps echoed through the auditorium and across the stage, followed quickly by applause. Jesse looked like he'd swallowed a lemon dipped in turpentine. The two glee clubs met in the middle of the stage, Mr. Schue and Jesse holding the first place trophy between them. Kurt felt someone brush up against his shoulder, and when he turned, Dave was standing next to him. "So," said Dave, grinning happily. "I guess this means I'll be seeing you at regionals, huh?"
Kurt sucked in a breath, letting it out with a smile. "I guess so," he replied. This time when the pleasant twinge came, it didn't surprise him in the least.